surprised by the seasons

The fact is that this last month I’ve fallen into a good bit of contemplation. Now, that’s not terribly unusual for me. When I left the city, when I left active ministry and ventured up to these mountains where I’m cloistered among cedars, pines, jays and chickadees I intentionally sought at least a little bit of wilderness. Wilderness, real not figurative, is a good place to quiet oneself and let go of the things that bind.

It’s not the contemplation that is interesting to me, it’s the good bit of it part, the increased sense of thought, and spiritual pondering, and weighty ethereal analysis. And it’s the fact that I feel I felt like this flavor of meditation before, roundabout the last four or five months I spent living in Pasadena. That was a rather big four or five months for me. Not for my resume, not whatsoever, nor for my bank account, or anything an educated guy in his late twenties should desire. It was a season of God’s work, however, a time in which God nudged me once again, pushing me from contentment in the acceptable patterns of life and towards his own purposes. That’s happened a fair bit in life. I’ve been distracted by God time and again, keeping me from settling into life. So, feeling that intensity again now, the kind of intensity that draws me away from writing about singing birds (like the finch who is merrily chattering in the branch above me), is rather a bit unsettling. What are you up to God? I’m not sure I like your heavy hand all that much.

A season of God’s work? A good friend mentioned to me the other day he thought of seasons when reading my words. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” Ecclesiastes 1:1 reads. A lovely passage, and a good song, to be sure. Strikes against monotony and the expectation that there is one way reality has to work. There is a time for all sorts of things in God’s world.

When I first got his note I thought about the idea of seasons, in my own life especially. My first thought, to be honest, was, “Yes, that’s true. But I’ve already had this season I thought.” Which really is a silly thought altogether. I’ve already had this season. Of course I have! For whatever reason for most of my life when I have thought about the patterns of God’s work, about the journey he leads us on through time and space I’ve had a linear view. Go past one thing on to another and on to another, making progress along the way like I’m driving down the interstate.

Seasons are not linear events. They are cyclic. They wrap around a year again and again. Fall and Winter, Spring and Summer, followed by Fall and Winter, Spring and Summer, and so on, and so on, through all of time.

Why am I surprised by this little bit of Autumn now? Or is it Winter? Or Summer? Of course I’ve felt this season before. I’m not living in the witch controlled Narnia. Seasons move along, in circles.

I’ve had a good bit of Fall, and a fair bit of Winter along the way. Summer too. So as I sit here now, listening to the cawing of a raven nearby, I think about seasons as cycles. Which is helpful really. Because while seasons come and go, in a regular rhythm, we not left to passively endure what they offer, good or bad.

I remember my first winter in Chicago about fourteen years ago now. I was a California boy. Southern California has only the vaguest sort of changes in weather through the year, a little wetter for a couple months, a little colder or a little warmer, or a little more clouds in the morning which burn off nicely by early afternoon. Forty degrees in Chicago hit and I was perfectly fine. Then I learned about wind chill. I learned about seasons. I learned how to buy coats and wear layers and warm hats that cover my ears. I learned how wonderful the aroma of newly mown grass smells in the warming months of Spring. Seasons came and seasons went, but I learned more and more about how to exist and even to thrive in the midst of whatever season I was in, discovering the beauty of each.

That’s my encouragement today. In my provoked pondering I’m not the same person I was when I moved here, and not nearly as tossed by the waves of spiritual movements. I’m able to sense and respond and discuss and interact in at least an increasing approximation of serenity in the midst of this uncertainty. What this all means is still to be seen, and maybe even a lot out of my hands. But I can put on my coat and my hat and sit in the midst of God’s work, praying with more focus and listening with more openness.

Thank God for the seasons, that come round again and again. Turn, turn, turn.

This was written May 18, 2007

A couple years ago, Barclay Press invited me to do a two week daily journal for their website. They’ve since changed their online presence so those writings are gone. I was sorting out different files on my computer this evening and happened to run across them. So, I thought, I might as well repost them here. Both to have a record of them, and maybe more so, because this was written early in 2007. A fair bit of changes have happened in my life since then, so these are records of a time in my life when all I had was faith. I was writing a lot during these journaling times, and it’s curious what came out when I sat down to write. So, mostly for me, but also for anyone whose interested, I’m going to post one of these a day for the next couple of weeks or so.

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